Warren County digitizing records with $400k of ARPA funds

Published 11:17 am Thursday, March 9, 2023

Warren County will soon have its records dating back to 1807 available in a digital format.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of the expense during its Monday meeting. Approved in two separate motions — one for the Chancery Clerk’s office and one for the Circuit Clerk’s office — the estimated cost of the project is a combined $413,200.

Paid for with American Relief Plan Act (ARPA) funds, the project will involve not only the scanning of records but also the enhancement of older documents to make them more legible and searchable. Chancery Clerk Donna Hardy explained that, because of the complexity of enhancing the records, the project is more involved than simply scanning pages and therefore cannot be completed in-house.

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“There are a lot of people out there who can scan, but when it comes to enhancing (the records) there aren’t a lot of people,” Hardy said. “We have people who can scan, but when you’re going back to 1807, we need an enhancement so you can read 1807 just like you can read 2023.”

Records to be digitized include land records and marriage licenses.

District 3 Supervisor Shawn Jackson was the sole nay vote for both motions, saying she disagreed with the use of ARPA funds for such a project.

“I believe ARPA funding should not be used for digitizing, as we have money in the county budget for these administrative functions,” she said. “I’m not against this, but I’m against using ARPA money that can be used for vital things in the community such as mental health and youth violence. Again, I question why we would use revitalization funding for such mundane administrative functions when we have money in the budget.”

Jackson then inquired as to whether the project would be put out for bids or if it would be considered sole-source.

It is yet to be decided whether the project will be bid out or sole-sourced; Hardy said the county’s purchasing department is currently evaluating all options to determine whether it qualifies as a sole-source project.

Board President Kelle Barfield said Thursday that the project will be a public service to the community as it creates greater access to public records.

“It will allow people the opportunity to look up records that go back more than a century without having to go to the courthouse,” Barfield said. “Given the specialized nature of this undertaking, being able to increase access to these records will be an asset to the community.”